C&I talks with Cahalen Morrison about the band’s new video, making music, and life during lockdown.
We’re pleased to premiere the video for the song “Barcelona Lighthouse” from Seattle-based Western Centuries’ newly released record, Call the Captain (Free Dirt Records).
The new record is Western Centuries’ third, and follows 2016’s Weight of the World and 2018’s Songs From the Deluge.
The guys in the band met in 2010 through Seattle’s lively traditional music scene. Initially founded on bluegrass, old-time and early country music, the band continues to evolve beyond a traditional mold.
We talked with Cahalen Morrison about the band, the new video, and life during lockdown.
Cowboys & Indians: How did the band get its name?
Cahalen Morrison: Sort of a long story, but Ethan [Lawton] and I were doing the big push back to Seattle from Nashville in the van, just eating mountains of sunflower seeds and drinking gallons of coffee, trying to come up with a name that captured a feeling without being obvious. So we basically just spit-balled on it for 2,000 miles, and that’s what we came up with.
C&I: Introduce the guys in the band.
Morrison: Jim Miller: Guitar, vocals and songwriter, from Newburgh, New York (but really Saskatoon). Claim to fame is his deep love for gummy bears, and he’s a world-“famous” lepidopterist!
Ethan Lawton: Guitar, drums, vocals and songwriter. Born and raised in South Seattle. Claim to fame is his remarkable gardening skills and his utter disdain for daffodils.
Cahalen Morrison: Guitar, drums, vocals and songwriter. Hailing from northern New Mexico, now loosely based out of Seattle. Claim to fame is his true love for bagels and his passionate hatred for donuts.
Nokosee Fields: Bass, fiddle. From Stillwater, Oklahoma, now quarantined in Lafayette, Louisiana. Claim to fame is his first-place ribbon in old-time fiddle from 2019 Clifftop, and his insatiable thirst for Korean food.
Thomas Bryan Eaton: Pedal steel. Based out of Nashville. Known around the world for his sourdough pancakes and his pre-rolled shirtsleeves.
C&I: Best thing about making music together?
Morrison: Everything, really. We all love each other’s songs, and it feels so good to come together and try to bring them to life.
C&I: How has everyone been spending lockdown?
Morrison: Jim has been staying at home in Newburgh, doing some writing, having weekly internet happy hours with pals, and walking his internet-famous pup, Jester. Ethan is in Seattle, doing a bit of work on his house and gardening like a madman. Nokosee is in Lafayette, cooking up a storm and teaching online fiddle lessons. Thomas is at home in Nashville, doing lots of streaming concerts and a 30-day superfood cleanse. Cahalen is in New Mexico doing some writing and eating as much chile as he possibly can.
C&I: What has quarantine meant for you as musicians who are used to being out there playing live?
Morrison: It has been hard to see our year fall apart and to not get to spend it together. Having all our shows canceled is a pretty tough pill to swallow, but really the hardest part is not being able to be together as a band/family.
C&I: What’s the backstory on the song “Barcelona Lighthouse”? Are we talking about the actual Barcelona Lighthouse in Westfield, New York, on Lake Erie?
Morrison: It is indeed referencing Lake Erie. The song is about falling in love, but unattainable love.
C&I: Tell us about the song. How did it come together?
Morrison: The song started out very different from how it ultimately turned out. It was a really fun song to work on, getting the really stripped-down groove and arrangement. My goal was kind of to have it as empty as possible while still maintaining the groove. Ethan came up with the perfect drum part, and the rest pretty much fell into place. It’s one of those songs that are difficult to play slow enough, at least when we’re playing live.
C&I: Any stories about the video you’d like to tell?
Morrison: It was a pretty smooth video shoot. We had the song down by that point and had been playing it out live for a good while. We were at Bill Reynolds’ studio in Nashville, where we had recorded Weight of the World, and subsequently Call the Captain, so it was a comfortable place to be.
C&I: What’s the band’s creative process?
Morrison: We mainly come with finished songs, and then we work on instrumentation and arrangements with everybody. Some come out pretty much as planned, and others can really change drastically, as was the case with “Barcelona Lighthouse.”
C&I: What are some country/Americana songs that would make up a “Songs We Love” Western Centuries Playlist?
Morrison: Oh man, that’s a good question. In the van (Country Vanner), we don’t listen to tons of music. And when we do listen to music, it is rarely country or Americana. But we all certainly share a love for good country.
C&I: After lockdown, what are you most looking forward to?
Morrison: Traveling around the world, playing music with and for our friends. There’s nothing that compares.
C&I: What are some things we should definitely eat/do/see in Seattle?
Morrison: It is an amazing part of the world, most definitely. Swimming at Martha Washington Park, eating at By Tae, and watching the power tool drag race in Georgetown.
Also check out the video for Western Centuries’ single “Every Time It’s Raining” that Rolling Stone premiered here.